Nationalism – is it good or bad?

This is a post in response to some discussions I had about my previous post about the controversial De La Rey by Bok van Blerk.

One of my friends suggested that the word nationalism had such negative connotations that it is offensive. I must admit I was quite taken aback by this view.

Lets first clarify nationalism. According to Wikipedia, nationalism is an ideology that holds that a nation is the fundamental unit for human social life, and takes precedence over other social and political principles. Of course with such a controversial issue this might also be questioned, but lets agree on this as a starting point.

To me nationalism is a positive thing. I do admit that nationalism is a very powerful feeling/ideal and this scares a lot of people. Almost like a tool that can end up in the wrong hands. But religion, for instance, is no different. Capitalism or communism or even technology can also be exploited to do evil.

Many people immediately associate Nationalism with Nazism. Whilst Hitler exploited Germany’s nationalist fervour after the 1st World War to build his fascist state, he could also have used those nationalistic feelings to build a flourishing and socially responsible nation.

If it wasn’t for nationalism we (the Afrikaners), Indians and Pakistanis would all be speaking English right now; the Scots wouldn’t have their delightful accent and the French would have been speaking German. The list goes on and on.

In South Africa I believe that nationalism actually encourages reconciliation between races. If Bryan Habana scores a try I am just as happy as when Fourie du Preez does. I don’t see black and white – I see a South-African sticking it to the Aussies.

That doesn’t mean I want to declare war against Australia. Far from it; in the UK we had just about as many Aussie/Kiwi friends as Saffers. What it does mean is that I’m proud to be an Afrikaner and I recognise and respect our heritage. Exactly in the same way that I’d expect a Scot/Aussie/Russian/Yank/Indian or Zulu to.

Mainstream Germany & Austria are in total denial about their nationalism. Privately they are as nationalistic as ever, but they have draconian laws (that go 100% against the principles of freedom of speech) that prohibit them from expressing their views. I think this denial is not healthy. Obviously there are exceptions, but as a rule their joie de vivre is sadly lacking.

When the Scots, Irish and Welsh sing their glorious anthems at Murrayfield, Landsdowne Road & The Millennium Stadium visiting spectators are inevitably moved. It truly is something to behold; ask anyone who has been there. It is nationalism as it is meant to be: not pathetic and small minded but rousing and inspiring.

For a well researched & balanced view check out the Nationalism Wiki.

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